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How Tess does her icons in GIMP. Or whatever.


How Tess does her icons in GIMP. Or whatever.
What up, kiddos? A nice lady mentioned wanting to do icons, so I offered to show her how I do mine. Do you like crystal clear, sharp-but-not-too-sharp, icons with no frills? Yeah, me too, man. Sexy shit. If you're interested in learning to auto-cap movies with VLC just lemme know in the comments and I'll show you how to do that, too. This tut is more for screencap icons than photoshoot icons, so be aware of that going into this. Here we go! For this tutorial you will need:

       ‣ GIMP
       ‣ Movie screencaps or, like. Pictures. Or whatever.
       ‣ The ability to follow my incoherent rambles.

Okay, so I'm just gonna grab something off of my desktop that I've already used for icons since I know that it will need all of my bare minimum steps. Open images in a new tab for their full size in this tutorial. Here's the full image if you would like to follow along with it as practice:

Open that bitch in GIMP and then click the rectangle select tool. It should be at the top left in the icons of your lefthand tool window. My image is a close-up of the PB's face, so I need to crop a square. This image is 720 wide by 304 high, so I'm going to make a box that's 304 wide. The height doesn't matter so long as it is at LEAST 304. Feel free to let it go outside of the boundaries of the picture.

Now crop that motherfucker by going to IMAGE in the middle window's menu and then down to CROP TO SELECTION. Bam. You have a square.

Now go back to IMAGE and down to SCALE IMAGE. In the popup box, set the width to 100 and hit SCALE. Now your shit is all kinds'a icon sized.

As you can see, this shit is way too fucking dark. Let's fix that, eh? Go to your LAYERS tab and make sure the picture layer is selected (single-click it if it isn't highlighted) and then hit DUPLICATE.

Now that you have twinsies you're ready to fix the lighting issue. Above your displayed layers is a dropdown labeled MODE. Click that and select SCREEN.

Sometimes using SCREEN is enough. Sometimes it will be too bright and it discolors the image and/or washes it out. If that's the case, go to LAYER > TRANSPARENCY > ADD ALPHA CHANNEL.

Then select the ERASER tool from the lefthand box, and set OPACITY to somewhere between 30 and 60, depending on how washed out it is, and then erase completely over the screened layer to tone it down. It's best to pick the biggest round brush and set the SCALE to 10.0 so that you only have to pass over it once. Remember: Since this is a percentage-based opacity don't let go of your mouse button while erasing or it will be uneven.

Now that that's done, right-click the screened layer and click MERGE DOWN. Now you're back to having one layer.

If you're following along with my test image, your icon should look something like this:

That's great and all, but we can do a little better, right? Right. I tend not to do a full sharpen on my icons. Instead, I use a brush and sharpen specific areas, most notably: Hair, lips, scars, wrinkles, or shine in a person's hair. With Paul, here, we've got eyes and wrinkles in his facial expression to sharpen. Choose the BLUR tool and then set it to SHARPEN. I usually zoom into my icon at 800% so I can be more accurate with my fuckery. Remember to zoom back out to 100% and make sure you didn't over-sharpen anything.


Now, sometimes, you need another SCREEN. I think it's still a wee bit too dark, so duplicate your layer again, set it to SCREEN. Wow, way too bright, right? Do that thing I told you up there. You know, with the alpha channeling and the erasing. Awyiss. Much better. Merge that fucker down and you're done. Good job. You made a motherfuckin' icon.

Shameless pimping:
Like my icons? Check out my new(ish) icon tag. Like my random ass PB choices? Check out ~oddpb and consider joining and contributing!


Dec. 12th, 2012 04:38 am (UTC)
I love this! It is very informative. Now I just need to get gimp! I'm totally going to try this soon~
Dec. 12th, 2012 09:06 pm (UTC)
:D Yay! I'm glad you liked it. I mean, there's a ton more you can do with PB icons of course, depending on what you like, but this is good for bases or, if you're like me, if you just prefer clear icons that aren't too dark, too blurry, or too sharp without any of the extras.
Dec. 13th, 2012 02:58 am (UTC)
Holy Batman. Please continue to be awesome - I've been a designer for years and it NEVER OCCURRED to me to use screen. Seriously. I've been way too lazy lately when it came to icons but since apparently I have a weird taste in PBs I will have to get to it myself and get to obsess for hours. Yay.

And, just on the side, I love your incoherent rambles and stuff.
Dec. 13th, 2012 07:39 am (UTC)
Tbh I think I originally started using screen at least partially by accident (but we'll pretend I always know what I'm doing.) Now, though, if GIMP took away screen I think I would die. Or stop making icons, which would also lead to dying. I'm not over-dramatic at all lmao.

LOL, nothin' wrong with a weird/seriously underused PB. :D If you start doing more icons you should totally join ~oddpb and post there! Lol totally shameless and not subtle in any way with my pimps; no regrets.

Hee, aww thank you. :3 Sometimes I sit here like, "I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who thinks I'm funny..." so that's nice to hear. XD
Dec. 14th, 2012 01:02 am (UTC)
Eheheh, it's okay! When I lost Photoshop for a while I felt like going a similar way.

Ooh! I'll do that just so if I start to icon I remember to post. I need to sort of get my cd rom back into my computer so I can screen cap all my movies and such. Rather then just all my Star Trek ever.

You're welcome! :) And nope. I find you very funny~
Dec. 14th, 2012 01:09 am (UTC)
Oh man, that would be great! Odd PB needs some Klingon PB icons, for sure. I need to get on capping the original Planet of the Apes for some PB sets, ngl. It's on my list, at any rate.
Dec. 14th, 2012 01:26 am (UTC)
Yesss! I love Klingon's too and iconning them would be awesome! Specially Worf, he's one of my favorites. ...Planet Of The Apes would be such a fun rp, oh gosh.
Jun. 27th, 2014 10:15 am (UTC)

I'm now back making icons so I very much appreciate it. I had PS but I never liked it (I used to have PSP7/9 and PS is just not the same. Gimp though I like so thank you :D)